1930s at Craigmount and George Watson’s
Over the years, children living within the Grange—and from beyond—have attended the many schools sited in or very near the area. A substantial number of private schools of greater or smaller size were located here. This section includes memories of: Craigmount, in Dick Place; Esdaile, the Ministers Daughters College, in Kilgraston Road; St Andrews in Lauder Road. These schools have disappeared, but the largest remains. It is local primary school, Sciennes, located on the north edge of the area. Opened in 1892, it is still attended by many local children today. The section also includes memories of boys and girls tramping to and from the different sites occupied by George Watsons, now consolidated on one site, beyond the west boundary of the area.
Teaching at Craigmount School
After graduating, I joined the staff of Craigmount School in 1933. I assisted extensively, Miss Gillespie with Geography, Miss Watson with English, Miss Beattie with Maths, Miss Mudie with Latin and Miss Soper with Games and Swimming. This last was my joy, particularly when I managed to coax a nonswimmer to cross unaided the surface of the small private pool, which was boarded over in the winter to make a chilly classroom. For what I was able to help with I was awarded annually bed and frugal board for three terms of ten weeks each and an annual salary of 66 pounds paid in June and December.
Muriel Barnett – Newsletter No 54 – Summer 1993
Craigmount School Song
Through all the years Craigmount has stood
With honour and with fame
Each girl has done the best she could
To glorify its name.
I strike I defend
May this be our song
Our theme to the end
Right against wrong
First God then King
Then home and school
Feris Lego is our motto
Hip Hip Hurrah
When winter comes with frost and ice
Our flashing skates we wear
And swiftly o’er the ice we go
Prepared to do and dare.
When summer comes and winter’s past
At tennis nets all day
And stool ball posts are up at last
And every girl must play.
Though oceans deep may roll between
We’ll ne’er forget our school
Nor all the pleasures we have seen
Neath Miss MacDonald’s rule.
From the Usher Scrapbook 1911-1914 Relating to Nan Aitken & the Aitchisons (via Derek Lyddon)
The 1930s at Craigmount and George Watsons
I first came to live in the Grange district to 111 St Alban’s Road, in 1927, aged 4. My father having died, my mother and sisters, aged 7 and 5, set up house with my grandparents, when it was quite common for three generations to live together. There were many private schools, boarding and day, of which only St Margaret’s has survived. My sister began at St Andrews Cottage School in Lauder Road – the sign is still above the door. The Grange Home School was a preparatory school for boys in the building in Grange Loan, now converted into flats. I attended Craigmount School from age 8 to 12, in Dick Place. The building is now demolished and replaced by Wyvern Park. I have vivid memories of Geography lessons in the drawing room following a radio series on South America, an innovation in those days.
The same inspiring teacher taught nature study and I owe my life-long interest in gardening to her as we went to Roslin Dell, collected wild flowers and put them in the correct botanical plot in the garden. A number of these were put (duly labelled) in vases in the corridor and at the end of each month a selection chosen and the house which scored the highest points for correct identification won a prize, which consisted of a visit to such places as Duncan’s chocolate factory or the Observatory.
Esdaile, or the Ministers’ Daughters’ College, in Kilgraston Road was almost next door. Crocodiles of girls were marched down the road, lacrosse sticks over their shoulders, accompanied by their teacher to whom they had to make polite conversation. After the war, when the school had been evacuated, the building was sold and used as a training School for the Royal Bank before being converted into the present flats.
I also attended George Watson’s Ladies’ College in George Square, to which I walked daily through the Meadows. The dancing class was ruled by the indomitable Miss Graham (who had taught my aunt many years previously). White gloves were compulsory and woe betide any pupil who could not produce the correct steps in the eightsome reel. The annual concert prize-giving every July was a very important occasion which demanded hours of rehearsal to produce the precision required as rows of girls, duly arrayed in white dresses and black woollen stockings filed in from opposite sides of the organ gallery to the strains of the school march. Uniform had to be strictly observed at all times; St Trinian-type gym tunic, white blouse, school tie and velour hat in summer, panama in summer, were obligatory in the streets. Discipline within school was severe; because the junior and senior schools moved classes at different times, to minimise noise no talking was allowed in the corridors and a prefect was placed at strategic points in the stairs to issue an order mark against your house if you were rash enough to disobey a rule. The ultimate sanction for a grave misdemeanour was to be sent to the tiled hall where you sat in disgrace in full view awaiting a summons to C.C. (the headmistress) for a solemn interview. One of the pleasantest duties at the end of the session was to collect flowers from fellow-members of the class and arrange them in a beautiful bouquet of sweet peas and roses to be presented to our teacher as an affectionate tribute – a charming tradition. In retrospect I had a very good broad education and emerged with a standard of values which has remained with me ever since.
Maud Harrison – July 2003
Esdaile School in 1946
In September 1946 the people living in Kilgraston Road were faced with a great change in the neighbourhood. Instead of the army occupying Esdaile School, which they had done since the beginning of the war, schoolgirls once again clattered round the building. We were back from our evacuation to Ayton Castle. As far as the girls were concerned, the return was a mixed blessing. Most of us had loved the freedom of Ayton Castle. We had huge grounds to wander in, hayfields close to the castle to play hockey and lacrosse on and classrooms in interesting places such as boudoirs and billiard rooms. The castle was full of character. When we returned to Edinburgh, we found ourselves in a uniform colour scheme of chocolate brown and mint green. Everything was freshly painted after the army’s occupation and I think our staff must have nursed a secret longing all the war for chocolate mint creams. Of course domestic arrangements were much improved. Fuel rationing was becoming a little more generous and we were now in a building designed for us. We no longer had to post our dirty washing home every week for our unfortunate mothers to wash and send back. Instead of one bath a week, we got two and instead of one hairwash every three weeks, we got one every week. (How today’s teenagers would have coped with this, I cannot imagine!) Senior girls, I was one of them by then, were allowed on Saturday to take the number six tram down to Princes Street and meet friends. I seem to remember this often was a group of boys from Loretto. We had trips to the theatre and to concerts and of course the fun of playing other schools in matches.
It was not all good news however. On weekdays if we were not on the games list, we were dragooned into ‘croc walks’. Some unfortunate member of staff had to accompany us down Blackford Avenue, along St Albans Road, or wherever. Two poor girls also got the job of ‘sharing’ this member of staff, that is walking with her and thinking up conversation all the way round. The ‘crocs’ of girls, wearing navy blue coats, berets, itchy black stockings and the school scarf of navy, yellow and white must have been a familiar sight in the Grange. Another drawback was that the games field was down Oswald Road, and after a strenuous session of lacrosse or hockey, it seemed an awfully long way to straggle back to school to get milk and a bun, which is what we ate before ‘prep’. Perhaps the strangest aspect of our coming ‘home’ to Esdaile was the fact that none of the girls had ever been there. The prefects, therefore, were asked to come back a day early so we could learn our way around the building and show it to the others when they arrived.
Esdaile has a graceful curved stairway in the front hall and only staff were allowed to use it. This meant that 120 girls, usually in a hurry, had to scramble up and down the narrow, back, winding stairs where there was hardly room to pass one another. Although we didn’t question much in those days we were amazed at this. I remember one girl, who stumbled and fell in a head-on collision on those stairs, gasping, ‘It’s funny how we pay to be here and we get the back stairs, and the staff are paid to be here and they get the front stairs.’ Again, what would today’s teenagers make of this?
Lynne Gladstone-Miller via Elsa Hendry – Newsletter No 70 – Spring 2001
Esdaile School from 1956 to 1961
1956-61 – Not so very long ago, but it’s difficult to connect one’s present self with such a bygone era, a time when the school hockey team wore gym slips, black stockings and suspenders, and the highlight of the dormitory year was the midnight feast. Games featured a lot. Every weekday afternoon was given over to the game of the season – lacrosse in the autumn term, hockey in the spring term, and tennis and cricket in the summer. Facilities for these were one pitch for ‘crosse’, hockey and cricket plus four hard tennis courts in South Oswald Road (now flats) and four grass courts in front of the school itself. Esdaile had a fixture list with all the other feepaying girls’ schools – St. George’s, Oxenfoord, Gillespies and lots of schools which have disappeared along with Esdaile – but we kind of shot ourselves in the feet by spreading ourselves so thinly over so many games. We didn’t win very often. Clearly, the whole school couldn’t be accommodated on that one pitch, so every day, lists went up of those girls who were down to play games and those who were to go on croc instead. Croc was a column of ten girls in pairs, headed up by appointed leaders and back-marked by a couple of prefects or similar. These crocs trod appointed pavements leading to Blackford Hill, the Hermitage, the Grange, or Newington, with the smell of biscuits from the Middlemass factory. Crocs, in fact, were how we passed Sunday afternoon, in our school suits, with black bashers (velour hats with brims) in the winter, and straw bashers in the summer. Happy, happy Sunday when it was really, really wet, and we could passthe afternoon reading in bed.
Games wasn’t my scene, but I did fancy having the tassel (for safety-pinning to your beret) awarded for playing in a school team at least three times. My only chance was cricket, absolutely the least popular of the games we played. This, however, didn’t make it easy. There were only three cricket fixtures in the season – St George’s, Gillespies and the father-and-brothers match (where the fathers and brothers played left-handed) – and anyone of them could be rained off. In my very last term at school, I made it.
Helen Askham – November 2002
St Andrews Cottage
When the Dick-Lauders feued the Grange in 1851, some of the first villas appeared north of the intersection of Lauder Road with Dick Place and, between 1852 and 1853, a further cluster was built to the south-west. These include the variously spelled Asberry and Albany Villas (respectively Nos 28 Dick Place and 17 Lauder Road), St Andrews Cottage (No 15 Lauder Road) and Nos 13 and 11 Lauder Road.
From the back of Grange House (demolished in 1936), the stable road, now Lauder Loan, originally continued north-east crossing Lauder Road through the present St Andrews Cottage. (Maps of the Grange in Edinburgh. Ed. Robt. Bartholomew, Grange Association, 1995). The house was built in 1852 as attested by the stone lintel above the gate. The first owner was John Baron Bell, a teacher of writing, arithmetic and book-keeping who had run a successful school in various parts of the city since 1831 (Malcolm Cant, Sciennes and the Grange, 1990). Research so far has failed to connect him with either James Bell of Dr Bell’s School in Greenside, or with Andrew Bell, the educationalist who founded Madras College in St Andrews. From 1861 until 1922, when yet another teacher, Catherine McDonald bought the house, St Andrews Cottage was known as Miss Bell’s Academy. John Baron Bell’s two daughters, Miss Jessie and Miss Maggie, together ran it as a dame-school until Jessie died in 1913, followed by Maggie in 1922.
The 20-30 pupils, aged between 5 and 12 years, were taught writing, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, singing and gymnastics. The senior ones started French. Every morning each child reported to Miss Jessie to ensure their proper deportment and dress – a hat and clean handkerchief being de rigeur for the girls; any boy not sporting a neatly folded white hanky in his breast-pocket had to wear a scarlet one all day to remind him of his misdemeanour. A carrot and stick regimen held sway, with Miss Jessie rewarding good conduct with a pan drop or small bunch of flowers, whilst Miss Maggie would administer ‘palmies’ for minor offences or occasionally ‘bare bottom spankies’ in the bathroom for really naughty boys. Both boys and girls wore tapestry samplers bearing their name, the date, alphabet, numerals 1-10 and at the foot ‘St Andrews Cottage’. Well kent Edinburgh families sent their children to ‘Miss Bell’s’ – Thins, Ushers, Washington Brownes – before proceeding to senior school elsewhere. Former pupils still visit although, inevitably, there are fewer nowadays. Since 1934, three doctors have successively owned St Andrews Cottage. Apart from the addition of a garage, the saltire patterned front garden and the weathering of the pickelhaube spikes on top of the stone balls surmounting the gables, little has changed structurally. It is now a ‘C’ listed property.
Dr James A Gray FRCPEd. – Newsletter No 68 – Spring 2000
The Sciennes School Building outwardly looks very similar now to the way it looked in 1892 when it was first opened. However as maybe expected, it has altered significantly internally and to some extent externally over the century.
Originally the playground was divided down the middle by a railing to keep the sexes apart. Girls on the left and boys on the right. There were also several more trees as can be seen in the photograph. The toilets at this time were outside where the present ones are but not attached to the building. (The janitor’s office, new toilets and dining hall did not exist then.) One lady remembers they were simply open cubicles with no flushes, sinks or toilet paper: ‘They used to go along the row saying stinking, fresh, trying to choose one to use!’ Drinking water was provided from fountains in the back wall of the shelters, painted green with two iron mugs hanging from them on chains. Before the SecondWorldWar the children were summoned to school in the morning by the bell in the bell tower on the roof. The rope that rang it hung down into a recess in the stairwell. Final year pupils remember having the privilege of pulling it sometimes.
Sciennes was unusual for its time in having a swimming pool. In the early days the gym was in the basement beside the swimming pool. Many former pupils mentioned the pool with pride and even boast about it now – the school with the pool! It looks strange to us with its dark walls and odd equipment. The present gym was classrooms for the first part of the century, divided by huge sliding wooden partitions which were pushed aside for assemblies. The class rooms at the ends had desks in tiers which were in place for at least 60 years. This is why the windows are so far up the walls! The first floor contained a lovely sunny sewing room. Only girls were taught to sew and knit with a regular sewing teacher. Many letters from former pupils praised the teaching of such particular skills which
they continue to use today. One lady however remembers making huge bloomers which she describes as large enough for barrage balloons! Some former pupils still have items they made at Sciennes. On the top floor were woodwork and cookery rooms complete with black-leaded stoves which the pupils had to polish. At least one former girl pupil remembers cookery lessons with loathing – no seasoning and lots of grease! Nowadays the top floor has P6 and P7 classrooms while the Learning Support Room and TV Room have been created on the first floor.
[As of 1992, the] most recent alteration to the school has been the creation of the infant library out of one of the ground floor cloakrooms. As mentioned above, the dining hall did not exist until the sixties. Most children went home for lunch as few women worked then and the catchment area was more circular. Meals were eaten at one point in the huts erected in the back playground, served from huge cauldrons – not remembered with relish! These were used originally as classrooms and were remembered fondly by some with their wooden verandas. More recently they were used as stores but were removed a few years ago.
Almost without exception all former pupils who contacted us remember the tradition of marching into school and to their classrooms to music. When the bell was rung at the start of the day all the children would line up in pairs as today, but then they would march in to the sound of marches played on a piano situated on the first floor. In later years it was replaced by a record player. Many remember various teachers playing this piano and the strict discipline kept over marching in time, including having their legs belted for getting out of step!
When the school first opened, classes were often 60 strong, often bare-foot, accommodated in the tier seating. Later this dropped to 40 and then to the present day 33 maximum. However teaching methods were needless to say very different! Learning was mainly done by rote, very boring in many former pupils’ memories! Class reading was particularly hated, with the whole class having to wait while everyone took their turn at reading. In the early days slow children were kept back to repeat a year and worst disgrace of all was the dunce’s cap. Slates were the normal method of writing for many years. Each desk had a slot in the front to hold the slate while not in use and each child had to provide a box with a wet sponge for cleaning the slate. These often got smelly! The screeching in the infants’ class must have been horrendous. Later, older pupils graduated onto dip pens and ink wells. Testing was commonplace. One former pupil remembers being moved up the tiers if you did well in spelling. Another remembers having mental arithmetic tests weekly and getting 6 old pennies if you were first (paid out of the teacher’s own pocket!). In the 40’s and 50’s the infant mistress used to test infants herself regularly on reading and tables. The final test for many was the ‘quali’ or qualifying exam at the end of primary seven. Doing well meant entrance to Boroughmuir senior secondary or James Clark for the more technically minded.
Rewards and Punishments
Discipline was strict and pupils were frequently belted, often for minor misdemeanours. One former pupil remembers being belted for breaking a ruler, another being spanked for playing with a toy car in class. One child remembers cooling the weals on her wrists on the tiled corridor wall, and being careful to hide the marks from her parents at home otherwise she would be punished again for ‘giving the teachers problems’.
Belting was also the norm for many years for being late for school with no excuses acceptable. One of the saddest stories about ‘first days at school’ that we were told concerned a small boy who started school in 1915. ‘My brother, six years older than me, took me to school. In those days everybody lined up in the bottom playground and marched in. A teacher stopped all latecomers at the foot of the stairs – my brother was late, but I was half an hour early for the Infant class. When Mr. Watt came into the hallway everybody held out their hands. So I held out mine and got belted with everybody else. It was a nice start to my schooldays.’ Changed days indeed! However rewards were also common and the school used to have a Dux. Medals were also handed out for good attendance and merit certificates for good work. Several former pupils told us of books like Little Women and Bibles handed out as prizes.
Music and Sports
The school has always thought music important and violin has been taught to the musically able from P4 up for most of the century and is still very popular today. The school has also had an orchestra for many years and any child having played for two years can join. Recorder has also been taught by the Sciennes School Association with about 60 learning in 1991. Singing too is remembered right through the century with pleasure. Football has been an important part of Sciennes school life from its earliest days as can be seen in the early team photograph. We still have thriving teams today with several cups and shields to their name. In the last few years we have had a girl’s team too. The girls have had a successful netball team.
Gym in some form or another has been included in the school week right through the century, although in the early days it seemed to have been haphazard. Some mention swimming for the girls while the boys had gym and vice versa. Many former pupils mentioned swimming which in early days was unusual in a primary school. Some enjoyed it tremendously, others were less enthusiastic – wearing hand-knitted swimming costumes, freezing cold and having ‘shivery bites’ to stop your teeth chattering afterwards! It is still part of today’s curriculum but hopefully a less chilly experience!
Dancing was also taught to senior pupils leading up to the ‘qualifying dance’.
Information on uniform when the school first opened is vague. From class pictures we see most girls in large lace collars and pinafore overdresses while the boys wore suits with Eton collars. Footwear for boys and girls was button boots provided free to needy children by the police benevolent fund. However no doubt normal dress was less fancy and many would have had bare feet. Later a traditional uniform as we understand it was introduced with a blue and white striped tie and a red blazer badge. More recently this has changed to a gold and navy striped tie with a gold blazer badge. Nowadays the most popular clothing at school is the less formal tracksuit uniform in navy and red.
To conclude this chapter there is one curious piece of information passed on to us from two different sources which we felt was worthy of mention – an unusual method of early child care. Seemingly in the early part of the century pupils sometimes were sent to school in the afternoon with a pre-school sibling if mother was busy. These small children were taken into class and sat beside their older brother or sister. If the headmaster appeared they were stuffed under the desk where they remained silent until he left. One lady recalling this practise now realises the headmaster must have known about it and turned a blind eye. No doubt he realised it was a social necessity sometimes. From the Sciennes School Centenary book – 1992. Published by and copyright of the Sciennes Primary School Parent Teachers Association. Reproduced in 2003 by kind permission of Lindsey Robertson,
Headteacher of Sciennes.
The Sciennes attic ghost
There is a story in Sciennes about a ghost who haunts the attic. Many children claim to have heard the awful rattling of milk crates behind the attic’s locked doors. The awful truth about this locked door [was] revealed in the school’s 100th year. One morning in the late 1960’s, Mr. Melrose the janitor was stacking milk crates with the help of some senior boys. They were working outside the North East attic when the janitor was called away. Six curious boys took their chance and entered the attic – only five came out. The headmaster Mr. Robertson was immediately called to the scene. ‘Where has that boy gone?’ he demanded. ‘Just disappeared!’ claimed the others. ‘Rubbish, boys don’t just disappear,’ he shouted angrily. One further step inside the attic revealed the awful truth. A shaft of light shone up through a round gaping hole where ‘Ricky’ had fallen through the plaster ceiling to the classroom below. Room 16 was in chaos. In the middle of their arithmetic test Ricky had dropped out of the sky and landed softly on a girl in the second front row. Ricky escaped almost unscathed (apart from his row), but the girl ended up in the Sick Kids with a broken collar bone and a lung full of plaster dust. The teller of this true tale – although wishing to remain anonymous – admits to being one of Mr. Melrose’s helpers on that fateful day. All that’s left in the way of evidence is a strange lumpy circle in [Room 16’s] ceiling where there hole was hurriedly repaired.
From the Sciennes School Centenary book – 1992. Published by and copyright of the Sciennes Primary School Parent Teachers Association. Reproduced in 2003 by kind permission of Lindsey Robertson, Headteacher of Sciennes.
Walking to Watsons
In the 1930s there were no ‘school runs’ as we know them today. To get to school you went on the tram, or you cycled, or you walked. Most days I walked from the manse inWest Mayfield toWatson’s. It was the best part of two miles, but, amazing as it seems today, you thought nothing of it. Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I had the pleasure of walking through the heartland of the Grange on my way to school, but I took a rather circuitous route. Starting at twenty past eight, I first crossed the. foot of Causewayside, keeping a wary lookout, not so much for traffic as for seeing if Geordie Geddes was watching from his cobbler’s shop, for we thought he was mad and were afraid of the daemonic look in his eye. Then briefly into Fountainhall Road before turning into Findhorn Place and ascending its steep hill up to Grange Loan. The reason for this was that I had a classmate who lived in Livingstone Place and who came down Cumin Place to meet me where Cumin Place joined Grange Loan. We soon passed Lover’s Loan, and wondered what the significance of that unexpected name might be. Perhaps, we thought, it might have something to do with the girls of Craigmount School, which, on our lefthand side was the next thing of interest on our route. Alas, Craigmount is no longer there, having been replaced by Wyvern Park, but what is still there is No 46 Dick Place. Little did I know it then, but this house was already a famous house, as I learned when I married a girl of Icelandic extraction. For in this house had lived a leading Icelander, Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson in the 1870s and 80s. That such a distinguished person from Ultima Thule should live there at all in Dick Place was remarkable, but what was even more remarkable was the fact that he was a composer, and here in Edinburgh composed the music for what became the Icelandic national anthem. Dick Place led into Blackford Road, and at its west end we almost always saw three gentlemen walking gravely together up Whitehouse Loan presumably on their way to their offices in town. To one of them we gave the name ‘Snodgrass’, and if Snoddy was to be seen twirling his rolled umbrella in the first section of Whitehouse Loan we knew we were on time. Ahead of us lay the Astley Ainslie Hospital to which we gave the name ‘Ghastly Painful Hospital’ and made jokes about it as we turned right into Grange Loan. More jokes lay ahead, for as we reached the newly opened Dominion Cinema we could see a pub on Morningside Road which we called ‘The Cow and Saxophone’ believing this to be a contemporary alternative to the traditional ‘Pig and Whistle’. But of course we could not pass the Dominion without closely scrutinising its posters of present and forthcoming attractions. To be taken to ‘the pictures’, or, as they later became known, ‘the flicks’ was an occasional but great reward for having done the homework which school would shortly be setting. But upstairs, please. That cost 9d, and it was infra dig to sit downstairs, which just cost 6d. Morningside Place at last, and from there we had the distant prospect of the end of our walk – Watson’s. Were we going to be late? Never! It had taken half an hour, but was as regular as clockwork. Not only was it health-giving, but it laid the foundations for a life-long love of the Grange.
Sheriff Nigel Thomson – February 2003